Pre-surgical Rehab

Research has shown that doing physical rehabilitation before having a surgery makes it easier to recover. People who participate in a rehab program generally recover faster, and achieve better results following their surgery. 

What is Pre-Surgical Rehab?

Quick Links

Surely you can’t rehabilitate something you haven’t yet had surgically repaired, right?Actually, you can and should.

Pre-surgical rehab focuses on building strength, enhancing endurance, increasing blood flow and improving balance before surgery. A physiotherapist will assess your current level of disability, strength, and range of motion. They will then create a customized treatment plan that will address your needs. This may include:

  • Stretches to relieve pain and muscle tension as well as improve flexibility.

  • Targeted exercises to strengthen your body.

  • Manual therapies aimed at relieving your pain without prescription narcotics. These may include ice therapy, heat therapy or electrical stimulation.

In some cases, the majority of pre-surgical rehab will happen at home. A physiotherapist will teach you how to do many of the stretches, exercises, and pain relieving techniques on your own prior to surgery. You will be responsible to keep it up until your surgery date, to make sure to maintain all the benefits you've gained!

Types of Treatments


Physiotherapists are movement experts. We can provide treatment and share strategies for you to manage your pain at home, until your surgery date. It is never too early or too late to start training your body to move better, and increase your chances of having an easy recovery.


When choosing exercises to prepare you for a surgery, you want to make sure that you pick the right ones. Some people need better endurance, some need strength or flexibility. 

A physiotherapist can help you identify what type of exercise you need the most to help you prepare for the surgery. You don't want to stretch a muscle that already has too much flexibility, or strengthen a muscle that works too hard. You need to find a good balance.

The type of exercise that you do is important. Your brain is most likely to remember how to move well if you practice during activities that are meaningful to you. We want to make the changes permanent, so we use activities that you enjoy in the clinic, and in your Home Exercise Program.


In order to prepare you for your surgery, it is important to practice your exercises  correctly, and often. You want to make sure that you are in the best shape possible. For this reason, we often recommend to have 1-2 visits per week, so that we can get you in top shape as quickly as possible.


The length of treatment has two components. First, the type of session, and second, the total length of the treatment plan.

There are two types of sessions to choose from: regular treatment and complex treatment. Most people who participate in pre-surgical rehab benefit from regular treatment sessions, that focus on only one problem. If you have more than one problem, sometimes a complex treatment session is beneficial to address more than one thing at once.

For your first treatment plan, we often suggest a duration of 4 weeks. This allows us to see how you progress and how you are doing with your Home Exercise Program. After these 4 weeks, you may choose to continue on your own, or to continue for another treatment plan, which can be for up to 12 weeks.

The duration of your treatment will be discussed with your physiotherapist on the day of your initial assessment. Depending on what the findings are, and what your goals are, you will talk about what type of treatment session is most appropriate and how many weeks you should start with. 

Exercise is Important!

What to expect from your specialist (and what not to):

When you are told that you need surgery, you might not be sure what to do next. The topic of exercise has likely come up, but it might not be clear whether exercise is good or bad. You've likely had a conversation about pain medication.

Here's some information that your physician won't discuss with you:  Exercise can help reduce pain. Any type of exercise will help to increase your blood flow and oxygen levels. This will help your tissues to heal, and reduce any stiffness that may be causing you some discomfort.

Exercise is very important to make sure that you prepare your body for the upcoming surgery. You can do this on your own, or with the help of a physiotherapist. The important thing is that you keep yourself active as much as possible until your surgery date.

Last Modified September 2019